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Advances in radiosurgery drive Clayton Smith, M.D., Ph.D., to help patients suffering from various types of cancer. Smith brings that mission to MCI by becoming the second radiation oncologist to join the department this summer.
Smith most recently served as chief resident in the Radiation Oncology Residency Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He will be working closely with Weisi Yan, M.D., Ph.D., who joined MCI Radiation Oncology earlier this month. Smith’s clinical interests include neuroscience, brain tumors, tumors of the central nervous system, and head and neck cancers.
Radiation oncology allows Smith to meld neuroscience and oncology – two fields that have fascinated him throughout his undergraduate, medical and Ph.D. studies in neuroscience at Tulane University.
Early on in his training, he knew he had made the right choice of field.
“I feel like the best thing I can do is help patients understand where they are in the process,” Smith said. “Providing them that education helps them feel some level of control over what’s going on. That’s the first thing I can do as an oncologist.”
Then, he said, he can help patients navigate what they can do next.
For a metastasized cancer in the brain, radiosurgery offers a 90 percent success rate at that spot, he says. With primary lung cancer in the early stage, there’s an 85 percent success rate with radiosurgery, he said.
While 60 percent of what radiation oncologists do is try to cure patients, the other 40 percent is treating their symptoms with radiation. That’s effective in about 80 percent of patients, Smith said.
“The other rewarding aspect of what I do is helping people feel better,” he said. “Helping improve their quality of life is reward in itself.”
Radiosurgery is non-invasive, and new technological advances make it incredibly accurate. Doctors can target a brain tumor, for example, within 1 mm, Smith said. “The patient is not sedated, but lies on a table for about 30 minutes while doctors administer the radiation.
As a radiation oncologist, Smith treats all types of cancers and a full spectrum of patients from children to adults. Because of advances in radiosurgery, he sees continued importance of all three types of cancer treatment – surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Smith is the recipient of prestigious awards, including the American Board of Radiology Holman Research Pathway, and is the author and co-author on a number of peer-reviewed articles and abstracts.
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